Message from Fr. Peter Andronache
Tonight at 5:30, we celebrate the first service of Lent: Forgiveness Vespers. This service shows us the joyful sorrow of the coming weeks first of all through its hymns. We will sing, back to back:
I drive myself to despair, when I consider how my deeds are worthy of every punishment, O Savior. Yes, I have ignored Your divine commandments, and wasted my life as a profligate. Therefore I implore You, the only merciful Lord: Purify me with tears of repentance, and illumine me by fasting and prayer, and do not abhor me, for You are very good and the Benefactor of all.
Let us cheerfully begin the season of Lent, and undergo the spiritual struggles. Let us purify and cleanse our souls and bodies. As we fast from foods, let us also abstain from giving in to any of the passions, and instead delight in the virtues of the Spirit. May we persevere in them with love, and then be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and to celebrate holy Pascha with spiritual joy.
In the first hymn, we see the sorrow that comes from hurting someone whom we love and who loves us. We can think here, though the analogy is not perfect, of a human love story – specifically of those times when even the thought of the loved one being hurt was too hard to bear. If, at those times, we were the ones provoking that hurt, even in a small way, the magnitude of our sorrow would have no relation to the hurt we provoked. Even the slightest hurt produced a great sorrow. God’s love for us is perfect and His will is for our own perfection. Since the last time we have sung this hymn, we have fallen in one way or another and the hymn brings us to the proper frame of mind for repentance. Yet, in order not to go too far in one direction, the very next hymn reminds us that this journey of repentance is a joyful one, tailored to bring us into the joy of our Master.
At the end of the service, we come one by one and ask forgiveness of one another. It is a blessed beginning to a holy time of preparation. Sometimes we know what we are asking to have forgiven and other times we do not, for we do not know, in the mystery of life, how things we have done have affected someone else, someone we may not even know. In the end, it does not matter. What matters is that we ask for forgiveness and we “forgive those who trespass against us.”
For those who cannot be here this evening, I am sorry we will not be able to do this face to face: forgive me.
With love in Christ,